Xiu Xiu - Ignore Grief
Released: 3 March 2023
Genre(s): Death Industrial, Experimental, Modern Classical
I've recently been revisiting an array of definitive industrial, dark ambient, and experimental music from the likes of Coil, Swans, Psychic TV, and so on. The music of this domain has always carried such a mesmerizing ambiance within itself, one that I feel is barren in many "industrial" releases from the present era unless you look beneath the surface, that is. Xiu Xiu's latest record, Ignore Grief captures the essence of not only those sinister industrial auras of yesteryear but contemporary classical arrangements with an equally riveting conglomeration of undertones. I wouldn't consider Xiu Xiu to be one of my favourite bands of all time or anything of the sort – the only music I have thoroughly listened to from them is their experimental electronic synth-pop stylings (which I do enjoy) – but this new darker album is much more to my preference.
The heart of Ignore Grief is rooted in obscure insanity, possessing an atmosphere that mirrors that of The Twilight Zone, Eraserhead, and Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Such is, first and foremost, demonstrated vocally and lyrically with Angela Seo's and Jamie Stewart's vocals, which serve as two collaborating entities in the realm. Angela's voice is much more pleading and mysterious, filled with a sense of desperation, while Jamie's comes across as haunting and virtually perverse. One of my favourites from the record, the introductory The Real Chaos Cha Cha Cha, contains a gritty DSBM-esque climate without the actual metal instrumentations from that particular genre. Angela laments, "what a God-awful wonder is Man" and "take it personally when I kill myself in front of you," developing the blackened scene of Ignore Grief. The follow-up is the Jamie-led 666 Photos of Nothing, a transition into the first taste of the more classical-leaning slices of the record. The track opts for creating horror through the lyrical delivery rather than the instrumentals this time, employing elements of old Hollywood suspense and denser drones. The harmolodic piano and "old school" energy here serve as an apt companion for the rugged vocal work from Jamie as he sings, "what is your fondest wish? To be dead and to kill." Regardless of my stances on some of the more monotonous classical points on the record, the lyricism is such a focal point here and I'm greatly drawn to the violently poetic nature of it.
Instrumentally, I do not hold a great amount of criticism towards Ignore Grief whatsoever. Truthfully, the visionary choices by themselves chiefly overshadow any "missteps" that formed as an effect. Take Dracula Parrot, Moon Moth for instance; the song is a brooding, modern classical work containing warped horns and what strikes me as clamouring keys. When observing the nature of the track, it is particularly comparable to another song titled Pahrump, yet I found myself enjoying this one far more than the aforementioned. Pahrump conveys an enticing dissonance through a string ensemble and a schizophrenic medley of saxophones, while Dracula Parrot, Moon Moth – be it containing very satisfying deep vocals from Jamie – just falls rather dull, despite maintaining many of the facets of the priorly touched upon track. Additionally, such a drawback is marginally noticeable on the chaos-infused Tarsier, Tarsier, Tarsier, Tarsier, a track that I definitely do not detest but still have a negligible problem with. The song is another point of musical cinematography on the record, showcasing a multitude of enthralling sound effects that deliver a tone of warfare and a general harrowing disposition. The ending of it is quite climactic, but the midsection is where I found the track rather underwhelming. I wish the band went further with this kind of musical environment they were forming.
No matter the scarcely averse convictions, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives on Ignore Grief. The record as a whole exhibits the band's capabilities and duality within music, the technique with which they are able to transform themselves, be it through synth pop, melodic experimental ventures, or death industrial like on the album in question. Brothel Creeper and Border Factory are two more moments I'd like to emphasize here, a sonic pair that cultivate incredulous words as well as innovative soundscapes – and are two of my favourites from the album overall. The first sees an unorthodox concoction of scattered production and instruments. It is truly a cesspool, but an enjoyable one that somehow genuinely feels like the atmosphere inside a gas chamber (not that I have been in one... And I'm sure that would not be a pleasant experience in real life. Ha). Although the blend is absolutely preposterous and seems unstructured, there is actually a sort of melody that is constructed from the madness, making the track that much more fascinating to dissect. The second brings us Angela Seo speak-singing about some strange fanciful summer with fucked up undertones amid clunky, mechanical instrumentation. There are also brief junctures of pure noise and the entire composition in entirety has this feeling of impending doom, possibly preparing for For M., the conclusive track that is a culmination of every aura and feeling on Ignore Grief; the final impact of alarm-like classical conjurings where the curtains then close.
This record, a score for staring into the abyss, really pulled me into Xiu Xiu's musical arsenal. It is certain that I will be checking out the rest of their discography.
Alice Glass - PREY // IV
Released: 16 February 2022
Genre(s): Electropop, Industrial Pop
Alice Glass, formerly of Crystal Castles fame, is capable of creating amazing music. Have a listen to any of the offshot songs such as Cease and Desist or Stillbirth, and you can understand how intriguing of a style her solo music has the potential to exhibit. Unfortunately, this has not carried over to her more recent work, especially her full length debut.
I was very curious as to what this finished project was going to sound like because I did not enjoy any of the singles that had come out beforehand. The mediocre Love Is Violence, a track that morphs Witch House with hyperpop esque electronics with a switchup of loud and spacey vocals, was the one that had graced my radar in the first place. I actually liked this song initially, but since then it has simply escaped my mind and I do not find it as likeable as before. Sadly, the rest of PREY // IV is even farther down the disappointment line.
There was a certain violent tendency that was displayed in the aforementioned offshoot tracks, those of which not only did not make it onto this album, but the ones that showed her true potential. They were intriguing, angry, much more out of line and unique. They are what I associate Alice's true sound to be. The production was also far better. I can say none of that towards this album though. Every song here is massively turned down and has a very similar tone to it as if its one massive song instead of 13 separate tracks. With titles such as Suffer and Swallow and Pinned Beneath Limbs, you would expect much more abrasive tones but I just find them – and the entire project – massively boring. Take Everybody Else, a song about negativity and toxicity in a relationship. Lyrically, it is nothing too terrible. However, the production is not only irritating but painfully average. It reminds me a little of Melanie Martinez or something that would go viral on the Vine app back in the day. The progression is also very generic, a repetition of the chorus, pre-chorus and alternating verses. The same goes for Witch Hunt, perhaps an even worse culprit of it except with a bit more industrial elements. There is a hint of originality within this song though, as there is a slight reveal of those hard-hitting atmospheres I so greatly admire, but they do not do the overall music any justice because they aren't at the forefront of the production. It is once again just a forgettable track.
This record was so disappointing, you have no idea. I miss her aggressive and more Witch House oriented music, although nothing is as good as Crystal Castles (I am aware of the circumstances with this duo and what went on, but I am speaking solely from a music standpoint so don't get riled up).
At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command
Released: 12 September 2000
Genre(s): Post-Hardcore, Emo
After listening to this record, you can begin to pinpoint how truly meaningful it was to the emo and post-hardcore scene. There are so many bands that have come after At the Drive-In which have drawn obvious inspiration from the soundscape that is created here. It is one of the better albums I've listened to in a while, and it still sounds great after all this time. It is a breath of fresh air hearing such energized guitar riffs and unique instrumental choices compared to what is trying to make a name for itself in the "scene" currently, even if this record is 22 years old. Straight from the first track, there is not a moment here without passion. The vocal style matches so well with the pounding instrumentals, even on the more toned down moments.
The lyricism is quite interesting as well, having a very cryptic nature: "Yes this is the campaign / Slithered entrails / In the cargo bay / A neutered is the vastness / Hallow vacuum / Check the oxygen tanks", some lines from the third track, One Armed Scissor. Yeah, I really fucking enjoyed this record. It feels extremely authentic.
Do yourself a favour and listen to it (if you haven't already) to baptize and cleanse yourself from the Hell that is the modern day emo scene.
Avril Lavigne - Love Sux
Released: 25 February 2022
Genre(s): Pop Punk
Welcome to another installment of the series from Hell, where I listen to even more modern "pop punk" records out of sheer boredom even though I have nothing but hatred towards them.
Avril Lavigne has a nice voice, I will give her credit where it is due, but I'm lost as to why she layers it in badly produced autotune and instrumentals. I believe she could have potential if she ditched the stupid fucking trap-infused MGK style (who is featured on here of course) of this genre and perhaps turned to Alternative Rock or something of the sort. With that aside, it is obvious that decent vocals cannot save such a record where the majority of it is god awful and practically unbearable to sit through.
The biggest downfall is certainly the lyrics, holy shit. This seems like it was written by a 13 year old girl who just discovered Fall Out Boy. You'd think Avril would be able to create a more mature pop-punk element since she's an adult now, but this record is absolutely soulless. I don't particularly mind the opening track Cannonball since it is the least boring one on here, and maybe a bit of the fun instrumentals here and there. Everything else blends together and is indecipherable from one another. Perhaps there was an attempt made at bringing back the nostalgia from Avril's older work, like Sk8er Boi and whatever, but although that song isn't a lyrical masterpiece of any kind, it is so much better than any song on Love Sux. Then again, maybe people who actually have some sort of nostalgic tie to that era of music will view it differently, but at the end of the day it is just a lackluster piece of work that I will not be coming back to.
Billie Eilish - Guitar Songs (EP)
Released: 21 July 2022
Genre(s): Singer-Songwriter, Contemporary Folk
I'm going to sound like a blatant hater if I voice my opinion on this EP, but I'm going to do it regardless because I don't really care. This consists of two tracks, TV being the first and The 30th following it. I'm not a fan of Miss Eilish as it is, but I tend to give her music a chance since it seems to be well liked. The second track is far better than the first, although I still don't think I enjoyed the EP as much as others have.
TV is the song with a much more generic song structure and sounds like the majority of Billie's slower music. The subject matter seems to be about an unstable relationship and questioning whether the person actually loves her. Such a topic can serve as heavy inspiration for music, but I think the lyrics is where my problem lies with it. I don't exactly know how to explain it and it may just be my bizarre preferences, but I absolutely despise lyrics that namedrop specificities instead of thinking of a creative way to go about it. For example, TV has lyrics about the show "Survivor" and mentions the title, as well as the issues with Roe v. Wade, which it also blatantly states. It just kind of takes you out of the moment. If an issue is important to you, then convey that in a more innovative way rather than just stating "they're overturning Roe v. Wade" or "I put on Survivor just to watch somebody suffer" – it feels like a verse from a terrible emo-rap song.
Lots of these negative attributes are improved upon with the next track, The 30th. The emotional factor here is much stronger in my opinion, and is much more unique musically, not sounding like anything else I've ever heard from this girl. The chord progression in the bridge is very beautiful and her vocals sound great. You can tell that whatever event is the topic matter really had a strong impact on Billie. While it isn't my type of genre, I still think its a good song. I think I'd have a better view on her discography if it had more creativity such as on this song.
Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
Released: 4 February 2022
Genre(s): Art Rock, Post-Rock
Every now and then, there comes a musical work that I constantly hear nothing but praise towards. This certainly is one of those albums. Although I've heard at least a few songs here and there, I had never truly sat down and listened to a full album by BCNR until Ants From Up There. After finishing it, the conclusion I've drawn is that there must be something I'm not seeing/hearing correctly.
The track following the intro, "Chaos Space Marine", is the only one I can see myself coming back to. This song has an almost folky feel to it, utilizing a building-up piano and some horns that transition into a chorus filled with memorable lyrics. The atmosphere feels quite reminiscent to particular music of the 1960s, which is enjoyable. The rest of the album just did not click with me as this song did, although I truly wanted it to.
I think the talent is very evident within BCNR and I do enjoy the lyrics and general sound of everything, but the bigger picture is simply not for me. It almost makes me sad because I do wish I could feel what all these others are feeling when they listen to this record, but what're you gonna do? This album feels very "samey" to me, and I wish the remaining songs had a similar push to the first track. The lack of energy prohibits me from liking it to a full extent. It's as simple as that.
Black Dresses - Forget Your Own Face
Released: 15 February 2022
Genre(s): Electro Industrial, Power Noise, Glitch Pop
I would sell my soul just for this to magically transform into an instrumental-only record. I adore noise and industrial music, no matter how harsh or bizarre it is, but one group I simply want eradicated from the musical realm is Black Dresses. I have attempted to see their appeal numerous times yet it has never managed to get through to me. I did not like their last release (Peaceful as Hell) – this one is no different. From what I also gathered, the duo staged some immature marketing ploy where they "broke up", yet they reappear with this redundant piece of work.
Frankly, the production here is interesting. I could see myself enjoying it if it was solely the instrumentals like I said. Very abrasive. The track Money Makes You Stupid had high potential especially, utilizing some modern industrial elements with a glitchy soundscape that, at first listen, sounds quite solid. There are also moments that feel a bit like something Trent Reznor would create, which is never a bad thing in my eyes. Regardless, anything with a sliver of positive attributes is diminished because of how much I fucking despise the vocals (and the lyrics). Yes, they are intense and rage-filled which is all you could ever ask for in a record from this genre, but they sound almost… ironic? I’m not sure if this was supposed to be some sort of humorous addition or not, but either way geeeeawd I don’t like this shit.
That is basically how I would summarize my personal thoughts, although I must bring up some things I saw others mention when talking about this album. Apparently the two people who made it are LGBT women and somehow this means you should exclude it from criticisms of it being “fake angsty/punk/other dumb word of choice” as one would say. I think this is the most stupid excuse ever. I don’t care who makes the music as long as it is good. Nobody should be excused from (rightful) criticism just because they are a minority of some sort. I shall leave you with this gentleman’s comment as a final note:
Bladee & Ecco2K - Crest
Released: 17 March 2022
Genre(s): Cloud Rap, Synthpop
Very, very glad to hear new music from Bladee and Ecco2K. I wasn't expecting this album to sound so ethereal but goddamn it works extremely well for the both of them. I'm one of those insufferable fucks who lose their shit over Bladee's darker themed music (I had to admit it), so I didn't think I'd enjoy this as much as I did.
One of the most standout parts of this record is Whitearmor's production. The whole thing is very euphoric and all elements of the instrumentals flow together in such a great way. The opener, "The Flag Is Raised", drags you in right away. It is very upbeat and just a fun-sounding song. Bladee and Ecco's styles contrast very nicely. My favourite song off of Crest though is definitely the following track, "5 Star Crest". The song has numerous parts (or I guess a 5-in-1 type deal) and creates such intriguing atmospheres with each one. The beginning starts out very mellow and airy, which then bleeds into an almost whimsical sounding section, which then transitions into some other frankly gorgeous sections of music. Throughout the whole album, many grand themes are alluded to or explored, such as raptures and holy entities, which fits right in with the soundscape.
Aside from the positives, which extend for the majority of this album, the only downside I'd have to say is a bit of repetition, especially in the second half.
Blunt Force Trauma - Vengeance for Nothing
25 December 2012
Genre(s): Slam Death Metal
I truly did not intend to review two albums in a row with the word 'vengeance' in the title, but be assured that this one is eons ahead of the counterpart, both musically and lyrically, even if I don't know what the bloody hell they are saying.
Blunt Force Trauma is a band from Japan that take immense – and I mean immense – inspiration from Dying Fetus, even having a DF song title as their name. Although this is the case, I do not believe this element takes away from this record as a whole because it is powerful from start to finish. The first song is an instrumental, yet it is not a filler or a boring moment like some tracks of this nature tend to be. The aptly titled Intro is a bone-crushing launch for the rest of the music to follow. All throughout the record, one of the biggest standout aspects is the drumming; it is almost mechanical, propelling the tracks to unique levels of brutality. Variations of Death Metal that focus solely on speed instead of intricate riffs and such always face the possibility of becoming overdone or annoyingly repetitive at times if not creative enough, but this isn't the case here whatsoever. Something I greatly enjoyed is the almost groove-oriented parts that can be heard on Exploitation of Humanity for instance – very guttural vocals with dissonant yet memorable guitar sections, both complimenting eachother and creating these intriguing speed changes that just stick with you. Another track I love is the titular one. It begins explosively, once again highlighting the drums a bit more explicitly this time, and although it is shorter than some of the other songs on Vengeance, there is a lot packed into it which makes you wish this speedy and intense track was longer. The breakdown near the end is perfect as well. I also have to mention the song Blind Devotion, which I suggest everyone to listen to because it will demolish your brain (in a good way of course). I love how heavy it is, all the changeups and breakdowns in it, two elements that this band seemingly really excel at.
This was such a great listen that I immediately downloaded it afterwards. Its war undertones and rhythmic instrumentals are fucking awesome. I really wish this band had more records under their belt because they are super talented.
Brainbombs - Burning Hell
Genre(s): Noise Rock, Garage Rock
Brainbombs as a musical outfit is essentially what many "shock" musicians think they are, but do not actually have the balls to be. That is one of the core reasons why I've always admired the passage this group embraces when it comes to perfecting raucous, unhinged, gorgeously degenerate works. Their 1992 debut release Burning Hell is a glimpse into what would eventually be their future prosperity and unique brand of noise rock. Although I would not consider it my 'number one' Brainbombs record, the compilation of songs in question is nothing short of an exhilarating journey through lunacy and depravity.
Something of prominence amid the album's duration is a semi-muted breed of production, resulting in Burning Hell retaining a largely psychedelic atmosphere hand in hand with the noisy instrumentation. I find this to be such an intriguing combination; this is not to say that such a quality is unused in Brainbombs' later records, but this album in particular is where it is demonstrated – at least, in my opinion – to a substantial extent and establishes the sort of musical mentality they wish to depict. The essence of the mid-1970s (even the 1960s) in general seems to have a tangible dwelling here, especially post-punk or the avant garde side of art rock, whether it was the genuine case of the band's inspiration or not. This nature is additionally evident within the song structures found on Burning Hell; many tracks convey an upbeat or 'dance-y' manner of instrumentation with no prominent melody or distinct chorus section. The Fall is a band that comes to mind when I hear Sadist Action or After Acid, for instance, especially because the first few seconds of the latter sound like I Am Damo Suzuki. The rest of the record is reminiscent of the feel that one acquires when journeying through Willy Wonka's Tunnel of Terror; a whimsical yet bizarrely horrifying experience that you simply cannot look away from, or in this case, you cannot stop yourself from listening to the sonic obscenities being served to you.
There is no moment of purity on this record when it comes to the lyricism. From the initial start, the titular track conveys a slew of untidy words about being trapped in a hellfire of insanity. It is a generally fantastic opener, also containing a dose of a catchy riff and bassline which become stuck in your head with little difficulty. Burning Hell then shifts into Danny Was a Streetwhore, a song about a murderous homosexual who becomes aroused after stabbing a man postcoitus, a moment which can certainly serve as a representation of the lyrical themes abundant on the entirety of the album; cannibalism and necrophilia galore, and certainly more rape and torture than the average person would care for. Then there is the magnificently obscure After Acid – a slower moment which makes up in harshness by exhibiting elusive yet intense storytelling: "And my father stood behind the door looking like a spider in his net, the TV news whispering "your mother, dear, is burning now so put out the fire, put out the fire." The instrumentation is equitably as ominous, featuring 1960s esque psychedelia and lazy delivery that adorns the overall atmosphere impeccably. The words additionally seem to be the narrator speaking with a scarab insect on his ceiling, proving to be somewhat of a Kafkaesque ambience (and of course Peter Sotos). Such an intrigue is then created on the much less toned down Wishing a Slow Death. Here, the band opt for a slightly grungier sound and something deeper in the mix that mirrors a sort of electronica production. Lyrically, there is a heavy repetition of the theme that your own death is inevitable and nothing can cease the process. The laid back vocals fare quite nicely with such a tone.
My only true critique for Burning Hell is one that is not major, but is still present nevertheless. Every track here is enjoyable, yes, but it would be pulled together far more creatively if the band incorporated more material in the ranks of After Acid. If there were occasions here where Brainbombs delved ever so slightly more into some kind of obscure matters, such a juxtaposition of themes would sincerely separate this record from many others – not only within the group's own discography, but their "peers'" as well. Aside from this perspective, it serves as a very promising debut despite that.
The lyrics and psychosis-inducing atmosphere are truly the shining stars of Burning Hell though, which is why I majorly enjoy this record for what it is. It highlights the grander elements that Brainbombs improve upon when they follow up with their later work such as Obey and Urge to Kill. As the track Pleasures and Dreams tells us, "it was genius and brutality, taste and power."
BUCK-TICK - 狂った太陽
Released: 21 February 1991
Genre(s): Visual kei, Post-Punk, Alternative Rock
BUCK-TICK is a group I have been aware of for quite a while now. Their 1993 release Darker Than Darkness -style 93- is what initially drew me in, especially the somewhat trip hop esque track ドレス. While always finding the band (and this genre) of high interest, I have never actually listened through an entire full record of theirs – only singular songs – until now. 狂った太陽 or Kurutta Taiyo is an alluring, eclectic collection of music that retains an atmosphere of strange prestige yet is chock full of grit and a unique witchlike undertone.
With a title that translates to something along the lines of "crazy sun", Kurutta Taiyo incorporates a few various genres such as alternative rock on the opener スピード, the gothic rock soul of MACHINE and the post-punk infused Brain, Whisper, Head, Hate Is Noise. Hand in hand, new wave stylings that were popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s are ever so present here as well, on さくら for instance. There are a few moments here that bring to mind the stylings of Western bands, such as Faith No More (and that's not a complaint as FNM are one of my favourite bands), like the whimsical track MAD. This song sees the band conveying a sense of madness of course, both through the lyricsm and the upbeat dance-y instrumental rhythm. Although the feeling conveyed is quite elated, the words tell an entirely different story about insanity and helplessness.
My favourite tracks on Kurutta Taiyo are definitely 変身 [Reborn] and エンジェルフィッシュ. The first contains an array of twangy guitars, raspy vocals and an ambience that alludes directly to a suspense film or a pulpy mystery television show. The lyrics themselves revolve around a similar premise as MAD, except this time it is less helpless and more cynical. The second song is on a rather divergent side, portraying elements that are frankly baroque in nature. It reminds me a little bit of a twisted tango of sorts, and I love the wispy tone of the singing. This brings me to the overall vocal and instrumental talent showcased on the entire record. Every instrument involved partners with the fantastic production to create a very intriguing, novel sound. Atsushi Sakurai is a versatile, unique vocalist. The contrast between the aforementioned 変身 [Reborn] and the slower, more melodic vocal-centric Jupiter showcases this to a high extent. Additionally, guitarist Hisashi Imai is a prominent highlight of the album, another versatile musician. In my opinion, the most memorable sections of every song stand out largely in part due to the originality of the guitar work.
While there are definitely not many downsides to the record, the only negative attributes of Kurutta Taiyo is that a couple tracks utilize a similar formula. This isn't terrible by drastic means, but two or three songs on the album garner rather similar sounds, causing them to be too similar sonically which draws the record back from its full potential. However, the instrumentals and sheer uniqueness of the project actually save this negative element from overtaking the bigger picture.
I highly enjoy the album and this wonderful genre in general. Since listening to this in its entirety, 変身 [Reborn] has been on a loop. This is such an enamouring band and I can't wait to fully listen to the rest of their discography.
Demi Lovato - Holy Fvck
Released: 19 August 2022
Genre(s): Pop Rock, Pop Punk
Despite having many gripes with her mindset and musical ventures, I have been awaiting the release of Demi Lovato’s new record. I was very curious about this new faux-edgy persona she was about to bring to the table. I don’t know if this is simply because this is a trend now with terrible pop artists or if it is the everlasting thirst for attention with Miss Lovato, but I was so very intrigued with what the overall sound of Holy Fvck was actually going to be.
The very first track I heard was the single Skin of My Teeth, and although I did not particularly like it due to the generic guitars, it wasn’t anything too horrible. I was just relieved it was not a cover of Megadeth or another Ian Diorr x Travis Barker calamity… thank fucking God. Now on to the bulk of the record itself: I am slightly torn on my feelings here.
On one hand, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of MGK-isms (aside from the Yungblud feature, ugh) and things of the sort. There are many interesting choices here; the guitar progression during Substance’s chorus is rather nice. The track Eat Me contains a cool chord progression too, clashing well with the vocals involved and creating a heavier atmosphere when compared to the majority of Lovato’s peers’ work within the same genre. That is always a positive thing, because Lord knows all those people need some flavour. Help Me is a solid rock song that, although is nothing special from a lyrical standpoint, is quite fun and has an enjoyable feature. The best moment is Happy Ending, a very emotional song that sounds like it was pulled straight from the early 2000s. Although it is not something I will be playing on repeat, I can appreciate the artistry. Every song here is also pretty good vocally. Demi can for sure sing and has talent in that department.
All the positive attributes aside, this album cannot be saved. The reason? God awful lyrics. The only time I did not cringe was during the aforementioned Happy Ending, otherwise I just cannot get past them. Many tracks are the culprit - Heaven, Come Together, City of Angels, the title track. Bones is especially bad, with a pre-chorus that is literally just “let me, let me jump your bones” repetitively. This is mostly at play with the sexually-charged music. I feel like I often have this criticism with songs about sex and I swear I’m not some evangelical who is offended at these tracks; I love many songs with this topic matter, but it can border on corniness when done incorrectly, such as on this record numerous times. Not just corny, but goosebump-inducing cringe. Instrumentally and with production, while it isn’t like this for the most part, there are several times where I questioned why a track either needed a certain vocal effect or more than one writer. The opener, Freak, has some Manson-esque vocals effects (specifically from his ‘Grotesque’ era) and Yungblud just does not match up pleasantly with Demi’s sound. We then have the title track which is just atrocious, and the same thing can be said about Feed, which sounds like a radio-rock track and has nothing unique. It also utilizes that “you have two wolves inside you” thing, which just reminds me of this and I cannot take it seriously. It is also frankly astounding how some of the most boring music (lyric wise) here has all these writers on it. My dog could write better than that. The last thing I will say for this attribute is that there is a Royal & The Serpent feature on the track Eat Me, which you already know how I feel about this woman if you scroll down on this page…
To sum it up, what otherwise would have been a step in the right direction for Demi Lovato was tainted by cringe lyrics and rock cliches. She has a fantastic voice and there is certainly soul in this record which I can’t say for a lot of these artists, but it just lacks so many elements that would make it a truly good record. I cannot fully enjoy it and won’t be coming back to anything here.
Dolphin - Глубина Резкости
Released: 23 September 1999
Genre(s): Trip Hop, Alternative Rock, Hip Hop
Глубина Резкости is the second studio album by Andrey Lysikov, also known as Дельфин (Dolphin). Amongst the wide array of genres displayed within Dolphin's discography, Глубина Резкости (translated to 'Depth of Field') sees the trip-hop side of Andrey's artistry from a sonic angle. Though these two genres are at the very heart of the record, this is an album that demonstrates skill within the likes of alternative and even industrial rock. With incredible sampling and a unique feeling of suspense, some of my personal favourite tracks by Dolphin are found here and it is quite an intriguing compilation altogether.
Andrey worked with Viktor Shevtsov on the production of Глубина Резкости and this duo managed to utilize a vast variety of inspiration and samples to their advantage. The samples here range from 1990s rave music all the way to 1960s soul and blues; the track Вера ('Faith') utilizes all of the above. The song contains interpolations of Dinosaur Jr.'s Thumb and Funky Drummer by James Brown, along with The Winstons' Amen, Brother. There's additionally a superlative bassline with generally very prominent trip-hop auras. It excels in retaining a certain groove that intertwines perfectly with the ecclesiastic yet negative nature of the topic matters. The fifth composition Убийца ('Murderer') offers an approach ala American Psycho to a musical experience that is otherwise soulful at the very core, yet holds a sinister undertone. With samples drawn from Thin Lizzy and King Curtis, it almost paints a theoretical image in your head of someone stalking an individual while walking down the street. One of my favourite Dolphin songs is present in what is essentially the center of the record, and that is Художник ('Artist'). The production found within the track is once again a mixture of Andrey being sinister yet laid back. With the help of the sample at play – Sonic Youth's Bull in the Heather – it is akin to a cross between Trent Reznor and 1990s hip hop. Along with the aforementioned, there is a barrage of choices made that border on techno music in the best possible way. Such praise could be given to practically any of the songs on Глубина Резкости, to be honest. A few of the other key samples on the album include Mister Superstar by Marilyn Manson on the early trap-industrial Я буду жить ('I Will Live'), This Heaven by Love and Rockets on the aquatic Тишина ('Silence'), and Bucephalus Bouncing Ball by Aphex Twin on the whimsically uneven finale that is Ласты ('Flippers').
The record features a wide range of lyricism in addition to creative production, all of which aids the music itself to create distinctive atmospheres. The priorly mentioned Вера deals with insights into a strained relationship with God and religious faith in its entirety. Andrey's vocal delivery teeters between somewhat serene to almost condescending, constructing that emotional duality. Убийца, with a great flow of the classic Dolphin demeanour, sees Andrey telling the listener about numerous violent instances, whether they are metaphorical or actual physical killings. The ending depicts the narrator alluding to the fact that he is just like the rest of those who kill and beat others, and he sees no reason to not take his own life as well. Тишина is poetry of its own kind, dealing with what appears to be an utter lack of happiness and themes of loneliness. This song is powered by sonance comparable to submarines and sharp whispers, along with some siren-like instrumentations and stripped vocal moments. The lyrics accomplish a sense of placidity but in turn, they offer a sort of sharp sting that is unique to this specific feeling exhibited here. Надежда conveys further despondency; such a conveyance is partnered with wonderful percussion and guitars, creating almost a sort of 'wild west' feel. This instrumentation increases in stringency with the track's duration, later transforming into a bit of noise rock that sounds a lot like a farewell of sorts although it is not the final song on the album. Lyrically, what is apparent is that there's a story of hopelessness, a friend not comprehending what someone is experiencing behind a facade. The track is very metaphorical in a sense, but Andrey raps about how hope is crucial yet it may also be a form of self-deception.
There is not a single song on Глубина Резкости that I do not enjoy, but I will provide a very mild criticism as this rating is not a full 5 out of 5. Она ('She'), if I had to pick, is the weakest on the tracklist. The song delivers a calmer, chill moment that is not a bad change, but the production here is far less intricate and memorable than the rest of the album. Rap driven, Она deals with life and death, more specifically in regards to the words themselves, 'жизнь' and 'смерть', being of feminine nature hence why the allusion is made. I do enjoy the poetry of this track, and I don't even dislike it, but it is frankly the least riveting among far stronger and enticing songs.
All in all, this is a compilation of music that is very multidimensional both in meaning and presentation. It establishes Andrey Lysikov's duality when it comes to producing hip-hop atmospheres blended with essences of various other genres, as well as his writing skills. Full of 'boom bap' inspiration and spacious creativity, Глубина резкости is a great staple in Russia's rap and hip hop culture, as it is also a remarkable moment in Dolphin's overall discography.
Down - Nola
Released: 19 September 1995
Genre(s): Stoner Metal, Southern Metal/Rock
Over time, I've come to a conclusion - the 1990's were the most spectacular decade for Metal. By default, I've always just deemed the 80's as the golden years of the genre until realizing that pretty much all of my top favourite Metal releases are from the 90's. Perhaps I was just going with the popular opinion... Nola is certainly up there, both in my personal rankings and in general. I'd go as far as to say I prefer Down over anything else the band members are a part of. When it comes to Phil Anselmo's musical ventures, for instance, Pantera is certainly godly but there's just something about the southern twang of this supergroup – especially this album – that resonates with me in all the right ways. Of course I do enjoy Eyehategod, a bit of Corrosion of Conformity, and Crowbar is frequently on my radar, but Down blows them all out of the water. This is just such a great band...
Many influences such as Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General can be heard on this record, but rather than a simple copycat technique like so many other bands may turn to, the tracks on Nola sound unique to the band and remain fresh after all these years. Anselmo's vocals are intense and powerful, especially when paired with the sludgey guitars from Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein. Tracks such as "Stone the Crow" and "Temptation's Wings" really showcase the string talent. The riffs are quite catchy but hard-hitting. There's emotional moments on this record that offer a slight rest from the constant power flow as well, such as "Jail". Of course, I do prefer the heavier tracks. Stoner to stoner, I wholeheartedly recommend this.
EDIT (23/07/22) After listening through the whole thing numerous times, I have changed the rating from 4.5 to 5. It is a fucking flawless record.
EDIT (18/11/22) This album now has its own fanpage.
Entombed - Wolverine Blues
Released: 4 October 1993
Genre(s): Death 'n' Roll, Death Metal, Groove Metal
This is one of the coolest albums I've ever listened to. Entombed manage to create such a specific atmosphere throughout their entire discography even though the general sound differs, but it is especially prevalent on Wolverine Blues which is one of my top favourite albums by the band. It sees the band going in a direction of hardcore punk, rock and even a bit of groove metal while still remaining within their death metal roots.
The record embodied the best parts of both death metal and rock 'n' roll. Right from the opening track Eyemaster, a bar of intensity is set along with a rather catchy atmosphere that is also quite unique. Hollowman is another track worth noting, as it is seriously amazing. I love the melody here, especially paired with such groovy guitars and intense vocals. The lyrics are fantastic as well: "A matter of slugs / Till the rats are fed / Who examines the doctors" Just a kickass song overall. There are elements in it that remind me a little of Crossover Thrash, which works out to the band's benefit as I think LG Petrov could definitely excel in such a genre. This kind of sound is also heard on the song Out of Hand, which I think exemplifies the band's deeper punk influence. The chugging guitars and hard drumming once again provide for a catchy yet thrashing experience.
Entombed combine Death Metal and Rock 'n' Roll - two genres that you wouldn't necessarily group together in such harmony – and does it in such a way that creates a one-of-a-kind listening experience. This record is fantastic and takes the finest elements from both genre, culminating to be a benchmark for future bands. I also think it could be a great start for those who wish to get into this genre but don't know where to start. Love this album with my whole being.
Rest in peace, Lars-Göran Petrov.
Ethel Cain - Preacher's Daughter
Released: 12 May 2022
Genre(s): Dream Pop, Singer-Songwriter
Ethel Cain is one of the more promising pop musicians of the recent times, finding much inspiration within the likes of Christian music, choral hymns and what seems to be the bible belt of the United State's deep south. There are also doses of modern acoustic country music, but frankly done in a very tasteful manner. Her musical ventures, including 2022's Preacher's Daughter, draw upon the aforementioned influences and intertwines them with themes of abuse, trauma and adolescent life. Despite any negative opinions I hold towards the album in question, I genuinely admire her rather unique visions and the stories told in the music. It is quite refreshing to hear such a combination of things as opposed to many regurgitated schematics that you can find littered in the top charts.
One of the most praiseworthy facets of this record is the pastoral atmosphere it provides. You can clearly envision the type of things that Ethel Cain wishes to depict here – old church settings, the west and the south, tempestuous households. A few tracks here also incorporate certain noises and sounds that shift your imagination, such as staticy rainfall or the chirping of crickets. Preacher's Daughter achieves an incredibly original sense, which can also be located in many lyrical moments on the album. Take Western Nights, a song that certainly contains a negative subject matter but the execution of all elements ends up to be absolutely stunning; it is very Lana del Rey, yet only the best parts of her sound, especially her earlier work which I largely prefer over anything recent she has released. There is Family Tree - both the intro track and the later full track – which utilizes many a religion-based lyric accompanied by instrumentation with a flare for the dramatic. I especially adore the introductory version of the song, as I believe it to sound closer to post-punk than anything else. Aside from this, my favourite songs on the record happen to be both of the solely instrumental tracks. The first being Televangelism, which is just 3 minutes of beautiful keyboard work, and the second being August Underground, a drone-driven delight which seemingly takes its title from the gore film of the same name. Notably, Preacher's Daughter shows Ethel to be quite lyrically gifted. The majority of the record showcases a multitude of creative lyrics that I did not expect from a work of such nature. Even if I did not entirely connect with every track here, her words, their delivery and her voice contained the utmost emotion. The tone really did resonate regardless of the negative sides of the release.
Despite the fact that Ethel Cain's new record has numerous admirable traits, it is certainly not without its flaws. While I praised the habitually beautiful production, it is abundantly atmospheric to the point where I required some Sunn O))) injected directly into my bloodstream after the initial listen. This combined with the sluggish velocity of almost all tracks created a state of uninteresting similarity. I do not even truly dislike any song on the record, but if I had to make one change to it, the alteration would be incorporating drone production into the mix. Of course, not every song has to be super fast and intense to be good (that is just my Thrash metal-corroded judgement speaking on my behalf), but at least a dash of it would make the record truly come into its own. Preacher's Daughter is not altogether devoid of harsher aspects; the instrumental tracks mentioned before have such a feel to them, as do the endings of a very little amount of songs, the eerie Ptolemaea, or perhaps even smaller sections in the middle. However, such a number of harsh parts is just too infrequent.
In the same order of critique, while Ethel's vocal abilities are satisfactory, every now and then her delivery of the lyrics sounds far too similar to many other songs here. Handfuls of tracks result in sounding almost like the same song just with a slightly varied instrumental in the background, which is unfortunate. If you would like to know what I personally think her best work is, it is absent on this record. I recommend listening to this - my favourite song by her from an earlier EP that demonstrates the nature of work I prefer when it comes to Ethel. It is a fantastic track that not only expands on her vocal abilities, but there is a riveting story in the lyrics.
Ethel Cain is definitely respectable as a musician, and despite the things I dislike about this album in particular, I am looking forward to her future ventures. I love the overall aesthetic of her work, and especially the album covers. It is such a particular theme that not many could pull off without appearing tacky or sometimes even boring, so kudos to her on that note.
Ghost - Impera
Released: 11 March 2022
Genre(s): Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Glam
This was a very strange listen that I am a little torn on. I went into this not knowing what to expect, having previously heard two of the singles which I had very drastic opinions on. The first, "Call Me Little Sunshine", was quite good and garnered many replays from yours truly. It wasn't anything groundbreaking but it was a nice little song. I haven't exactly been all that positive about this band's music beforehand so I was surprised I enjoyed this. The next single I heard was "Twenties" which caused me to return to my pit of Ghost hate. I don't think a song has ever made me physically cringe – goosebumps and all – to this extent before. Good god, what a fucking garbage song. I was almost dissuaded from giving Impera a chance due to it but I kind of pushed past that.
Turns out, that is actually the only song that I heavily dislike here. But let's address the biggest gripe, – Ghost tries to emulate an astounding amount of other bands, such as Bon Jovi on the track "Spillways" (does it not sound identical to "Runaway"?) and perhaps bits of Iron Maiden here and there... some Scorpions too? Essentially just anthemic Hard Rock covered with a Hair Metal sheen. While I don't have a vendetta towards this record and think it is decent, the sheer goal of attempting to sound like all these other bands occasionally works against Ghost. At times, the lead vocalist's delivery of the words appears forced. The barrage of weird ass choices within the production and instrumentals is also something to note as well. While unique in a sense, it doesn't always hit the mark and can come off a bit cheesy. Almost all of these negative elements are showcased in the song "Twenties" if you would like to truly hear what I mean by it.
On the other hand, the positives are found on tracks such as the aforementioned "Call Me Little Sunshine" and "Kaisarion". The 80s influence shines in the best possible way during these moments. If you're someone who values fun hooks and catchy choruses, this album may fare much better for you than it did for me.
Harry Styles - Harry's House
Released: 20 May 2022
Genre(s): Pop Rock, Indie Pop
For the record, I was forced to listen to this entire album against my will. I've never been a Harry Styles fan. I do not care for his music nor do I particularly enjoy the pseudo-homo vibe he so desperately clings to. I will admit that I did like a few songs off of his debut LP though, but zero from his second one. I'm not sure why I continue to give mediocrity so many chances, but alas here we are. What made his very first album somewhat likeable is that it had some form of a soft rock element on various tracks. The sound was rather fresh compared to what his peers were releasing at the time, but then his second album seemed much more radio friendly. Sure, the prior wasn't anything uber experimental, but it had flare. This one, however, is a step down from both works.
The sole attribute is that it is very boring and reminds me of something Ed Sheeran would create. Harry's House begins with quite an abysmal opener. Something straight out of a Disney orgy with The Chainsmokers. Although it is likely the most poppy and 'sweet' track from here, it is a bore to sit through. This pretty much summarizes the remaining music off of the album. The only redeemable qualities here are Styles' vocals, which are not sensationally terrible, thankfully, as well as a few moments where the synthy/funky production sounds a bit neat. As for the lyricism, I can't say that there is anything of substance here. Tracks like "Matilda" could certainly have had some potential but it seems Harry Styles opted for the approach of ---- HELLA MID. Yeah, I am not going to be coming back to this any time soon... or ever...
Immolation - Close to a World Below
Released: 7 November 2000
Genre(s): Death Metal
Close to a World Below is a sonic amalgamation of the utmost brutality, encapsulating what it would feel like to be banished to the underworld.
The record was released in the year 2000, a point in time where many metal bands attempted to either capture a certain intensity while staying true to their heavy roots, or switched entirely to the realm of nu metal or alternative metal. While some succeeded in whichever endeavor they chose (Nile, Deftones, Dying Fetus), others fell flat and stooped to unoriginality or in some cases, flaming garbage (Papa Roach and Six Feet Under, but have either of those ever been good?). Immolation was certainly one of the groups that faired impeccably over the majority, creating what is arguably their greatest record to date.
My favourite track here is Fall From a High Place, a song that’s very evil in nature and utilizes quite a unique drumming pattern that only increases the overall intensity of the music. Here, the band manage to produce a bizarre sort of melody without having an actual a melody. The song is loud, the equivalent of a punch to the throat in the best possible way. Such a feeling is also demonstrated on the track Furthest From the Truth, which has these screeching guitars that would otherwise sound out of place on any other record, but operate perfectly here with Immolation’s knack for technicality and heaviness. I also have to mention the production, not only on this track but the album as a whole. There is a certain atmospherical quality that resides behind the bars of brutality. It is most prominently heard on tracks like the one I mentioned prior, as well as Higher Coward. It’s very light but it provides every song here with a very specific sense, one that makes you feel like you are either burning in hell or being dragged by hellhounds – how lovely. Very lovely, in fact, because it gives the album so much character and flavour.
I’m not sure why I’ve decided to dub this with 4.5 stars instead of the full 5, but that’s just the way it is going to be. Regardless, this is a must-listen for anybody who enjoys aggressive music. I think you will find it to be a close-to-flawless record.
Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison
Released: May 6, 1968
Genre(s): Outlaw Country
This album encapsulates all that I love about Country music from before the 21st century, and depicts how abysmal this genre has become in the current times. I could not imagine anybody actually listening to things like Cuck Bryan, FGL or any of these supposed artists that are oh-so-popular at the moment and "define" the genre when the greatest art has already been created by the likes of Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, and of course Johnny Cash.
At Folsom Prison is a collection of tracks delivered in a live setting, stemming from two shows at Folsom State Prison in California. The music ranges in atmosphere and emotion. There are upbeat songs that are just enveloped in sarcasm and wit such as 25 Minutes to Go, where Johnny sings what is essentially a countdown, and everything that is occuring before he's hung from the gallows. The song has this sort of urgency to it, the guitars growing quicker as time runs out, and his voice exudes so much character as well. Then there's Cocaine Blues, very obvious topic matter due to the title. It depicts a man going on a spree of crime while on the drug in question. This rather alarming subject is partened with a whimsical guitar which actually clashes very perfectly. The ending lyrics show that this track is sort of a warning, as Johnny sings, "lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be".
On the other side, there are slow ballads that make way as well. This type of atmosphere can be heard on songs like The Long Black Veil and Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart, the latter of which still contains a sense of humour. These tracks opt for a slower, more crooning sort of instrumental, where Johnny's vocals are highlighted. He has such a distinct voice that anyone could automatically recognize and I think it is ideal for this sort of genre.
Since this is being performed in front of others, you can constantly hear the prisoners in the background of these tracks, who seem to be greatly enjoying this performance. I feel like this essentially showcases how much of an impact all of these tracks really have. There's parts where the guys are cheering, laughing, becoming riled up due to the lyric matter or simply listening to the ballad they're hearing.
I really love this record and I love that it was performed in such a setting. I believe it truly adds onto the overall atmosphere, especially since it is Outlaw Country. You hear how great of a vocalist Johnny Cash is and go through an array of different emotions while listening to it. It 'sends me back' to a location I've never been at within a time I never was a part of.
Maggie Lindemann - Suckerpunch
Released: 16 September 2022
Genre(s): Pop Punk, Alternative Pop
Yet another lackluster record from the new wave of filth that is modern Pop Punk. I will refrain from entirely trashing it though, as it does have some – be it very minimal – qualities that I appreciate.
Firstly, it is truly a rare occasion when the production/instrumentation on records of this nature is not outright abysmal. The track Take Me Nowhere has a very mid-2000s tone, comparable to something like a lighter version of Pierce The Veil (a group I'm not a fan of, but it is refreshing to hear this comparison for once as opposed to the infinite 'Misery Business' copies we usually receive). Maggie Lindemann's voice is quite pleasant, and there is real usage of guitars here. Another moment where such attributes can be heard is on Casualty of Your Dreams. This song utilizes a bit of electro production, appearing straight out of the scene kid turf of 2008 or maybe more accurately, 'That's the Spirit' era BMTH. I actually appreciate this, a rather decent alternative to horrid, generic trap beats or repetitive two-chord guitar progressions. There's a few other times on Suckerpunch where this can be applied, but that's really the only positives I can say for the whole of the album.
My biggest problem lies within the fact that although the production and instruments themselves are decent, and Maggie's voice is fine, the two don't clash together as well as they were supposed to. There are moments where I find that these elements lack cleanliness and it ruins the full atmosphere of the song. Take the chorus of Self Sabotage for instance. The almost monotone (lower pitched?) nature of the vocals is a little grating when paired with the chords that were utilized. The same happens on We Never Even Dated, a track where the vocals are directly in the spotlight, the focal point rather than the instrumentation. It is especially faulty here due to this very fact. The better choice may have been to opt for singing in a higher octave or a different instrumental altogether. I must also mention the similarity of the music at hand. There are many tracks on this record that seem to be far too alike to one another. Not just connected by theme (expected on albums), but overall energy and meaning. They all feel as though they are about the same exact topics of self-deprecation with the same progression and same vocal tone. This is the cause for immense boredom.
Earlier, I stated how I appreciated the lack of 'Misery Business' parodies on this album, but it appears I was massively mistaken because the Kellin Quinn collaboration How Could You Do This To Me? has unfortunately fallen victim to the aforementioned. Not only is the vocal production here absolutely hideous, but the song is very, very much alike to Paramore's hit. It is basically the uglier twin of that track, sounding like a billion others from this dreaded genre that chose to go down the same exact copycat route.
Not a great record. I could've seen this having potential if it was created by somebody else with far more soul and variation.
Mamaleek - Diner Coffee
Released: 30 September 2022
Genre(s): Noise Rock, Experimental, Jazz-Rock
I have enjoyed numerous tracks from Mamaleek prior to this album's release, especially their dabblings within black metal, and I was looking forward to this album due to the premise of it being more experimental. I was quite elated to see what direction the group would travel in with Diner Coffee, and now that I've listened to it in full, the most important takeaway in my perspective is that it is a bold stride – musically speaking. With such a title and sound, this record is a sort of blend of the bluesy side of Tom Waits, the volume of 90s noise rock and a layer of avant-garde darkness that senses to be pulled straight out of a Noir flick. I love all of these elements on their own, and I love Mamaleek's creativity, so I was quite disappointed that I did not enjoy the album as much as I'd hoped to.
The pacing of each track is fairly slow, one facet that I found to be quite draining. It is not that I don't enjoy slow music, but I just feel like it did not entirely work here. The track Boiler Room is certainly my favourite moment on this album, containing stoner-esque riffage and lyrics reminiscent of the aforementioned Mr. Waits. The track doubles as a whimsical jazz song and a harsh, noisy mixture of work. The speed is relatively slow aside from a few sections, but due to this being one of the very first tracks, it pulled me into the overall atmosphere. That being said, such a speed lacks in prescense throughout the rest of the record, and Boiler Room itself is not even that speedy. Badtimers follows directly after it, which is a 7 minute duration filled with so many intriguing elements. I adore the beginning; soft guitars of such manner remind me of old Western films. The production on this track in general is very stunning, but I wish there was just a bit more variety here. The vocals and instrumentals, although containing creative choices that I'd otherwise enjoy, stay very monotone for an entire 7 minutes which bored me half to death.
Wharf Rats in the Moonlight partially falls to the same fate, although I do appreciate the almost Lovecraftian horror of whatever the band did in the direct middle of the song – an incomprehensibly enthralling barrage of noise that adds a necessary changeup and intrigue. Once again, there are such alluring instrumentals at hand, but the track just feels way too long and drawn out. There are certain songs out there that are an astonishing 10 minutes (sometimes even longer), but you wish they continued forever due to how strong their pull is. I cannot say the same for the majority of the tracks that Mamaleek have put out on this very record, unfortunately.
Perhaps I just prefer the black metal side of the group, something like 2008's Fever Dream, or the more experimental 2011 release Kurdaitcha (listen to The Hypocrite & the Concubine or even Eating Unblessed Meat. Two of my favourite Mamaleek tracks). I can certainly appreciate the blend of otherwise polar opposite genres into a gorgeous company of instrumentals, and the harshness of the record's vocals and general sound. I do not hate the album by any means, and do believe there are many redeeming qualities, but my major conflicts with it are ever so present.
Måneskin - Rush!
Released: 20 January 2023
Genre(s): Pop Rock
Although I slightly enjoyed their breakthrough Zitti e Buoni, 2021 Eurovision winners Måneskin have never quite been on my good side, or frankly on my radar as a whole. I cannot quite pinpoint why – perhaps it is the generic rock radio feel that their music holds, or the fact that all anybody ever speaks of in regards to the band is the members' appearances, I just continuously fail to see the hype. This is my first experience with them on a larger scale with this new full record, and my attitude is not any different. For a group whose motto is apparently "rock and roll never dies", this sure is drab...
I've always found it amusing how something in a language that one cannot speak themselves typically sounds better in terms of music. For example, I've seen many an individual obsess over certain modern Russian songs that go viral every so often, while I myself loathe them upon listening due to the lyrical matters being abominable or simply stupid (Да, я говорю именно о песне «Я буду ебать»). I presume that is also the case here, as the only tracks I can somewhat tolerate lyrically are the ones sung in complete Italian because I do not understand them. The lyrics are indeed the biggest gripe I have with Rush!; the top culprit is undoubtedly Bla Bla Bla, a song that is absolutely horrific – I mean, my God, whoever approved it must've had a real vendetta against the Måneskin gang (petition to call the fanbase 'Måne-skinheads')... Although the second half of the track shows a sliver of decency with a minor addition of aggression amid the vocals, this alone cannot save the horrors. Bla Bla Bla harbours such verses as "You got me angry and now I love punk, I listen to The Smiths crying alone" and "You said I'm ugly and my band sucks, but I just got a billion streaming song, so kiss, kiss my bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-butt." We then have the bizarre Kool Kids, a track which sounds like Idles if they sucked ass. This song additionally spews slightly less terrible writing than the aforementioned song, but equally as cringeworthy nonetheless. When the lyrics are not outright laughable, they are merely annoying such as on Gossip and Baby Said. The first of that duo features Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame, but he adds absolutely no external value to the music (not to mention I have developed a distaste for him and the band over time so this collaboration means nothing to me).
The generic manner of numerous tracks is yet another component that brings down the full picture. This is particularly in regard to Supermodel; it sounds an awful lot like Maroon 5 and there is an eye rolling reference to OnlyFans, Feel and Don't Wanna Sleep; both tracks are at the least bit alright until they reach the chorus, which feels incredibly lazy and lifeless, like the writers were in a drowsy state and simply threw together some repetitions of the titles at hand. Timezone fell victim as well; the song had an ounce of potential but the mixing here is what diminished that, as well as the sonically confusing cross between Palaye Royale and the girl who sings that atrocious 'abcdefg' song.
No matter how miniscule, it would be a lie to state that the record is utterly without any positive attributes. One of the two best songs on the record is Gasoline, a musical slice containing the only truly intriguing production choices on the entirety of Rush!. It is a song with a sort of villainous atmosphere and great bass work from Victoria De Angelis, as well as generally satisfactory instrumentation all throughout. The second song in question is La Fine which is sung in Italian, so for all I know the lyrics here could be atrocious but I would not be aware regardless. This is alike to their championed track Zitti e Buoni, except a little more laid back so it was pretty enjoyable. These two moments on the album are the only two that have the least bit of amusement for me, but even so I do not foresee myself returning for another listen.
It is unfortunate how the band has strayed from the somewhat endearing promise that was their Eurovision win, instead opting for a westernized form of writing to pander to English-speaking radio listeners and soulless choosings of production. I saw a RYM comment that summarizes the other facet of my feelings about them quite accurately: "The image of the performers becomes dominant, leaving almost no room for the music itself." Despite all of the downsides, I shouldn't entirely erase the group. I feel that perhaps with the vocal abilities here – and the evident promise of musicianship – Måneskin may excel if they chose to pursue the likes of solid glam rock or even grunge, but alas they've chosen the route of an only slightly better Imagine Dragons or Adam Levine... Truly a tragedy, I say.
Megadeth - The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
Released: 2 September 2022
Genre(s): Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
I apologize as I genuinely do not understand why I wrote this much, but its Megadeth and they deserve the absolute most.
The day has finally arrived: a new Megadeth album is upon us! Before I get into my thoughts on the record, I feel like I need to add a slight preface. I guess you could say I’m somewhat biased because not only are they my favourite band but there is not a single album that I hate by them (no, not even Super Collider, and I actually greatly enjoy Risk). There are some I would definitely not consider a top favourite/their best work at all, but by no means do I hate anything from their discography. Now that that’s out of the way, let us commence this unnecessarily in-depth review.
After an insanely chaotic time period consisting of delays, yet another lineup change and… let’s just say unprecedented turmoil, LA thrashers Megadeth have finally returned with a full-length record, The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!, their 16th album to date, following the 2016 release Dystopia. The personnel featured is quite a talented bunch; guitarist Kiko Loureiro, drummer Dirk Verbeuren, bass player Steve Di Giorgio of Death/Testament fame, and of course the man himself Dave Mustaine on guitar and vocals.
I was saddened by the dismissal of David Ellefson, a founding member of the band and one of my favourite musicians, (although I won’t get into my views on the background of that whole situation), but I was also very ecstatic upon hearing that Steve was contributing to this record because I adore his work with other bands, especially Death. Despite all the ‘beef’ and the extended delays, my excitement was not extinguished.
The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! opens up with the titular song, which I was immediately hooked by. This track sets the scene for the topic matter – the Black Plague – not only with the chilling spoken intro but also with the vintage-sounding guitars. I want to say it almost has western undertones to it. The guitars, which later become heavier and more harmonious, are amplified by the fairly clean production, reminding me a bit of the work on 1997’s Cryptic Writings merged with elements of 2007’s United Abominations. The ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ nursery rhyme is incorporated into the chorus. It adds this level of eeriness masked as innocence, propelling the theme very well. I thoroughly enjoy this track and believe it serves as a fantastic opener.
The song that follows, Life In Hell, was inspired by the 1985 film 'To Live and Die in L.A'. although the track itself has little to do with it. The lyrics seem to surround a self-absorbed individual who is essentially addicted to himself. This track has become one of my top favourites. I just love it so much. The rhythm here incorporates many smaller drum-focused sections and hard-hitting guitars. The chorus is also very nice and memorable, perhaps a bit relatable unfortunately but we won’t get into that. The melody is fairly the same throughout up until the middle, where Dave provides some eerie spoken word sections. It’s just a very cool song and I shall claim it as mine.
Night Stalkers is the next track, a song packed full of imagery and some of the best guitar work on TSTDATD. There is a very hype feature from Ice-T – super badass and matches the overall atmosphere. Unlike Life In Hell, I find that Night Stalkers lacks a bit in the chorus department when it comes to lyrics. I feel that the verses and the incredibly poetic outro are much more intense and memorable than the chorus on this song. Mr. Mustaine is a very talented writer but there is just something missing within the chorus. Something that is not lacking whatsoever though, is the guitars. The solo near the middle has a sort of urgent feel to it which really empowers the remainder of this track.
We then reach the fourth track which is another of my top favorites off of this record, Dogs of Chernobyl. There was a Russian sound bit in the beginning that left me floored upon first listen, as I was not expecting something in my language on a Megadeth song. A strange but welcome surprise nevertheless! This song incorporates some gorgeous-sounding strings, fitting right in with Gothic metal, although the song itself is certainly not of that genre. The lyrics are very imaginative, comparing the disappearing canines of Chernobyl to someone in (I assume) Dave’s life who has exited it for a reason unknown. The entire track feels quite apocalyptic but in a slightly off-kilter romantic way, a theme that Megadeth excel at. Experimentation is also quite evident here. Aside from the aforementioned Gothic atmosphere, there happens to be a bit of prog metal in the instrumentation. It works perfectly, especially near the ending verses where the lyrics become more intense.
Sacrifice and Junkie are the next two tracks, the first of which contains more evident prog elements both in the vocal progression and the music. The song depicts themes of demons, spirits, hexes, that sort of thing, and the music is very interesting. I love the riffs between each verse and they remind me a little bit of Gojira for some reason. These riffs add a very mystical sort of tone - another feat that Megadeth have done brilliantly numerous times. Junkie has a very bizarre chorus that, like Night Stalkers, I feel could be a bit stronger. Something I greatly love within this song though is that glorious trigger sound right before the first chorus. It is incredibly cool and I think that is also why I prefer the pre-chorus over the actual chorus in this song. The melody is overall much better and the wailing guitars sound nice.
The next two songs could be interconnected, Psychopathy and Killing Time; the first being a little interlude where Dave speaks about the titular topic with a very intriguing instrumental, creating an explosively seamless transition into Killing Time. This one grew on me a bit more after listening to it a few times. The structure is what I am torn on because like Junkie, the vocal pattern clashes slightly with the rhythm. If I absolutely had to choose a least favourite track off of this record, it would probably be Killing Time but I actually enjoy this song quite a lot so maybe I shouldn't say that [edit from future Volk: this is false, I love this song. Please disregard the foolishness of past Volk].
Next, there is Soldier On!, yet another stellar song with a kickass chorus and perfect ending reminding me of 'Full Metal Jacket'. This track is very badass and Dave sounds great here. It begins with a staccato of guitars and flows into a chorus that is just super memorable. It was a part of the initial three singles that were released prior to the full album, and it is definitely my favourite out of the trio. The lyrics revolve around war and the overall atmosphere of it truly does place you in a war zone, or perhaps provides a soundtrack for marching into one.
Célebutante and Mission To Mars are next, which are both very interesting tracks for a barrage of reasons. Célebutante gives off massive Cryptic Writings energy when it comes to production and riffs. The lyrics are about celebrity culture and all the bullshit surrounding it. The changeup happens within the bridge, which is my favourite part of the song. It is much calmer than the rest of the track, but it just sounds very hypnotic and I enjoy the instrumental. Mission To Mars on the other hand, is where more experimentation occurs, this time with pop-rock instead of prog metal. The band have done a style like this before on Super Collider which is certainly not within the ranks of their best albums, but holy shit I love this particular track so much. It is so different than anything else on this record but it works perfectly. It is not serious lyrically nor instrument-wise, revolving around a moon man and a space race. I could almost imagine it in an animated movie. Very goofy, but so great. The cosmic section in the beginning is very pretty as well.
The last track on the regular version of TSTDATD is We’ll Be Back, which is a badass closer with a beautiful guitar solo. This was the very first single released and the one that made me certain I was going to love this record. The beginning riffs are very quick and practically made for head-banging. The instrumental switches between verses and the chorus are very satisfying and everything just sounds awesome here. A very, very good song.
Although that is the technical closer, the digital version of this record contains two covers: Police Truck by Dead Kennedys and This Planet’s on Fire (Burn in Hell) by Sammy Hagar – I won’t get too into these two since this review is already incredulously long, but both are quite an entertaining listen. Police Truck is actually my favourite DK song so it was very cool to hear Deth covering it. Dave’s style gives the song a whole different feel than Jello Biafra's original one, almost eviler. I love it. The Sammy Hagar song actually features Sammy himself and is also pretty good but Police Truck is my personal favorite out of the duo. Much more energetic and crazy.
Final thoughts: This album is fucking awesome. If I say anything more, this page will simply self-destruct.
Moodring - Stargazer
Released: 10 June 2022
Genre(s): Alternative Metal, Shoegaze
One trend I have noticed within heavier music lately is the attempt to emulate Deftones. Deftones is one of my favourite bands, so it is nice to hear others create records that are inspired by them, but some of these attempts just end up being what Greta Van Fleet is to Zeppelin.
I had heard a few singles from this album and enjoyed one of them, while the others sort of fell flat for me. Now that the full project is here, I can say that I prefer what bands such as Loathe and Thornhill are doing as opposed to this. This isn't a bad record by any means but I feel like it just get overly same-y. The track "Constrict" is probably my favourite. It has a much heavier atmosphere and leans more towards alternative/nu metal rather than shoegaze, and I think that highlights my criticisms towards the rest of the album. I think that Moodring do better with a heavier sound rather than a softer, shoegazier one because it offers more versatility for them.When they opt for a more atmospheric approach, the tracks sort of blend in with eachother and sound quite similar.
Vocally, the comparisons to Deftones – while not necessarily a bad attribute – are very evident, as some vocal moments on this album sound almost identical to Chino Moreno. In the future, I hope to see Moodring stray from this type of approach and find their own unique sound. This isn't to say influences are a forbidden thing in music because everyone under the sun has them, but when something is that similar, I think it is better to tune for originality (or else you'll end up like Greta Van Fleet, who fucking suck).
Muse - Will Of The People
Released: 26 August 2022
Genre(s): Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
In my mind, I can very vividly recall the first time I heard Will Of The People, the title single from the album. I got goosebumps, and not the kind you get when listening to Rust In Peace, for instance. This particular song seems to incorporate the tempo and melody from Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People, but it does so in a very radio-friendly-car-commercial sort of way. You can practically visualize the Toyota Camrys. That was the only single I listened to before now and needless to say, even though there are somewhat redeemable moments, the full record did not fail to provide me with the same level of cringe.
Will Of The People is the latest album from UK band Muse, a group I’ve never totally been on board with. I enjoy Uprising, Starlight and the Feeling Good cover – that’s about as far as my liking goes. I've always found them rather mediocre otherwise, especially when it comes to their more recent discography. This record in particular exhibits quite a few different experiments with genres. A track I found myself enjoying for the most part is Won’t Stand Down, a “heavier” moment that has some nice guitars right before the chorus and an electro-rock breakdown with similarly heavy vocals, yet this is diluted by the bizarre Dubstep elements in the rest of it. We then have the funky You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween, containing some interesting production choices that are reminiscent of Perturbator, though far more turned down. It sees the band experimenting with quite a few different musical pairings – hard rock, electro-synth, etc. – which is admirable even if the vocal effect is unfavorable.
On the other side of things, there are tracks such as Liberation and Ghosts that are less enjoyable to me. Such songs incorporate an atmosphere of 1980s alt-rock with a focus on ballad-like vocals (think discount David Bowie or Queen) that just sort of fall flat. Matt Bellamy is a very talented singer but that alone cannot save music that is just plain boring. I can’t seem to find a sliver of energy within any of these sorts of tracks, which create a rather lackluster listen. Another problem I have with the record as a whole is the corniness that the lyricism frequently possesses. Take the title track for instance or the closer, We Are Fucking Fucked, the latter of which is the biggest example in my opinion. The track would otherwise have a cool instrumental but is downplayed by the words in the song. You cannot possibly expect a song like this to be taken seriously when all you do is list bad shit that is happening, followed by "Ahhhh, we are fucking fucked". In fact, many themes on Will Of The People include the likes of futuristic societies, political movements, rebellion, etc. It is very easy to make such topics seem cheesy or cringeworthy when it comes to writing music, and Muse unfortunately fall victim to this.
My final thoughts: I don't believe there are any tracks on this record that I will be coming back to. Anything here that I enjoyed, it did not stick with me completely. While I don't think this is the worst record of the year or anything like that, it is not a solid album. There are a few cool parts that deserve credit, but that is almost solely from an instrumental or production standpoint. Powerful vocals cannot save you from the curse of boring music.
Nile - Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka
Released: 28 April 1998
Genre(s): Death Metal (Brutal/Technical)
I enjoyed this album so, so much. Hard to believe this was only the band's debut. It is so intense and creates this otherworldly atmosphere that not a lot of metal albums have grasped so impeccably, incorporating both English and Arabic. Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka showcases all the reasons why Nile is one of the best death metal bands of all time.
The record opens with Smashing the Antiu, which wastes no time and sets a bar for the type of brutality – lyrically and instrumentally – that will be heard throughout the rest of the album. The track that follows is one of my personal favourites here, Barra Edinazzu. It has this banshee-like quality to it that I think is just insanely cool and such a theme also trickles down to The Howling of the Jinn. This song is super heavy like the majority, but has harsh vocals that somehow manage to be softer and mysterious at the same time. A barrage of riffs explodes near the end. The banshee atmosphere from the previous track is much more heightened here, conjuring an extremely badass and unique soundscape. This track is probably my most favourite if I had to choose, as they are all wonderful in their own way.
Aside from the obvious songs that beat your brain to a pulp, there are also points that serve as gripping interludes which still retain massive energy. Kudurru Maqlu and Die Rache Krieg Lied der Assyriche are the best examples of that. You can more explicitly sense the record's mythological tendencies within tracks such as those – one being instrumental, the other containing chanting vocal patterns that remind of a warzone, hyping you up for the upcoming brutality on the tracks to follow. Additionally, you hear some melodic moments as well, like near the end on Stones of Sorrow, which has a gorgeous guitar section and these sort of weeping vocals that clash perfectly together.
I will never pass up a brutal Death Metal record, and this one only furthered my appreciation for the genre. I love how almost experimental a lot of the interpolations here are, and how versatile the album is altogether. Nile are quickly becoming one of my all-time favourites. I do sincerely recommend this record especially to those who enjoy getting their eardrums exploded like myself.
Panic! at the Disco - Viva Las Vengeance
19 August 2022
Genre(s): Pop Rock
Preface: I did not foresee this review being this lengthy, but I have many gripes with this album so here we are. Maybe get a drink and a snack while you’re at it.
Out of all the musicians that have released albums this year, I did not expect to be hearing new material from Panic! at the Disco of all bands. Technically, it is currently only a singular man act
or a duo if you count his large forehead involving Brendon Urie. My personal history with Urie’s now solo project is quite a peculiar one. At one point in my life, I embarrassingly viewed P!ATD’s discography as saintlike but after the 2016 release Death of a Bachelor, I simply lost interest and ventured on to other, far better music. I do not consider myself to be a fan, maybe even a slight hater now (for the lols of course), but I did tune in to the previous release out of sheer curiosity. Upon listening to Pray for the Wicked, what I was met with was the complete opposite of why I appreciated the group in the past. Instead of imaginative baroque elements à la Pretty. Odd. or even enjoyable electro-pop stylings like 2013’s To Weird to Live, the record was a sellout radio pop abomination. Perhaps the best comparison would be Imagine Dragons or Maroon 5 at this point because this shit was fucking mid. Thus, I never returned to any of P!ATD’s discography altogether… until now.
Viva Las Vengeance is the latest venture from the one man band, an “experimental” route for sure. I guess one could describe it as whimsical in a way, but I view that as a positive term so maybe it would be inappropriate here. The record opens with the title track, a song that reminds me of something that would play in a coming-of-age film. I believe the lyrics are about fame and wanting a rest from the negative aspects of it. It isn’t necessarily terrible but it is forgettable. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the album. Is it better to be utterly abysmal as opposed to plain boring?
Before I get to the various musical atrocities that have been committed, I should mention the somewhat decent sections because there are only a few of them. Sad Clown, a rather cheesy song that is quite an entertaining listen and has some creative lyrics from the perspective of a clown. The track Don’t Let the Light Go Out, although bordering on generic alternative radio material, still has some of the more thoughtful production and instrumentals on the album. The drums during the post-chorus fit incredibly well with the grieving theme of the song, sounding like a heart beat partnered with Brendon Urie’s softer vocals. Speaking of which, that is also an upside to this record. The man is talented vocally, but he unfortunately lacks in every other department.
First and foremost, the lyrics on this album need acknowledgement. Good god, I hate so much of the lyricism throughout Viva Las Vengeance. It is an amalgamation of cringe, dullness and lack of innovation. Sometimes, they tend to fall victim to over-repetition as well, which is a least favourite “trope” of mine within music unless it genuinely builds upon something important. Such is heard on Local God and God Killed Rock and Roll, both of which have irritating and repetitive choruses. I’m not sure if it was intentional in order to create a sort of ear worm, or if Mr. Urie just needed filler. The cringe element is displayed in full effect on Star Spangled Banger though, where Urie seemingly compares him and his (theoretical?) posse to the band Dead Kennedys. Aside from the disrespect, I doubt his fans even know who Dead Kennedys are. The entire chorus on this song feels like it was written by a 13-year old Andy Biersack fanatic:
"We are electric angels
We are the six-string queens
We are the new Dead Kennedys
In the land of the brave
Home of the freaks
We are the kids from the underground
We are the new mainstream"
Perhaps the snapping point for me though was Something About Maggie, with a verse that refuses to let me sleep at night for some godawful reason: “Mamas and papas shitting bricks”. We then must acknowledge Sugar Soaker as well, in which Brendon Urie appears to be having sex with a car. I apologize but that is only acceptable if you are Dave Mustaine or Roger Taylor. I don’t make the rules.
The lyrics are not the only thing I despise on this record. The music itself plays a large role within the mess, as well as some of the strange production and vocal choices. No doubt, the biggest inspirations at play are Queen and Freddie Mercury, but they are incorporated in such a way that I would like to be euthanized immediately. In general, the overall album has a certain atmosphere to it that reminds of an immature broadway show, attempting to travel through many different genres all at once while increasing the theatrics to a hellish level. In retrospect, this could be executed very well if done properly. Alas, it is a miserable failure on Viva Las Vengeance. The track Say It Louder – yet another anthem for “outcasts” – is unbearably cheesy, pulled straight out of a middle school playbook. The lyrics surround themes of beating the odds and not letting others tear you down, which is already such a saturated topic but it is partnered here with the most generic instrumental known to man; drums building up during the chorus, strangely-placed silence to shine a spotlight on Brendon’s voice and emphasize the mood. There are just so many weird fucking choices here. This can apply to pretty much any song on the record.
The album then comes to a close with Do it To Death, a tedious finale that finally put me out of my misery. It could be that this was saved for last because it slowly eases you into the arms of the Grim Reaper, with a lackluster performance and nothing of value. Perishing without a cause is certainly tragic. Now allow me to sum up my thoughts. Viva Las Vengeance is a slice of the most terrible cherry pie I have ever consumed. This slice contains very minimum cherries, but for some reason more than enough cheese, ass hair and soy. I assumed it was going to be mediocre but to my surprise it was utterly horrendous. I can always appreciate over-the-top, ‘quirky’ music but this was not done in a way that I can enjoy. There is a huge difference between ironic, humorous and fun lyrics, and plain garbage that is uncreative and actually painful to sit through.
Also the album cover fucking sucks and I hate it.
If you’ve reached this far, congratulations. Here is a brain cleanser for you. Thank you for reading. Muah.
Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power
21 February 1992
Genre(s): Groove Metal, Thrash Metal
1992 was a behemoth of a year for Rock and Metal; we (and by we, I don’t mean me because I was nowhere near alive at the time *crowd boos*) received absolute artistry from acts such as Megadeth, Alice In Chains, Faith No More, and of course Pantera. Vulgar Display of Power is energetic, heavy and vicious, creating a body of work that paved the way for much less incredible Nu Metal acts of future times. Although that is the case, the events after it do not taint the legacy or sound whatsoever.
Even though I wouldn’t consider this particular album my top favourite from Pantera – I ride and die with Great Southern Trendkill personally – I greatly enjoy this album. The combination of Thrash and Groove metal play on the talents of the men in the band to the highest extents. Something absolutely worth mentioning is Dimebag Darrell’s stellar performances here. His abilities are just insane, especially on tracks like the opener Mouth for War, which pulls the listener in by the fuckin’ balls. The guitar solo is stunning, as are the riffs on the widely known Walk.
Phil Anselmo’s vocals additionally deserve immense praise. He unleashes all his rage on this record, but then again, when is he not doing so? Instantly recognizable, his voice provides a strong sense of attitude and anger but is also quite dynamic, no matter the record. These skills are highly evident on Vulgar Display of Power. This Love is a track that showcases both sides of Phil’s voice; it begins as a rather mellow tune, a ballad of sorts about a twisted up relationship. The vocals then explode into anger-fueled verses that are super hard hitting. There is also the closer, Hollow, a largely emotional and soft track about a best friend who is in a vegetative state, alive yet dead. Near the middle, it once again picks up and you hear the classic growling vocals from Phil.
Vulgar Display of Power is full of classic moments that truly define a genre and an era. It was the album that first got me into Pantera and it only gets better with time.
EDIT (09/03/23) I'm not sure why I did not give this record a full score at the time of review, but I have since had a slight change of perspective. Forgive the retardation of past Volk. The rating has been changed to 5/5; previously 4.5/5, and the album will most likely recieve a fanpage at one point or another.
Pierce the Veil - The Jaws of Life
Released: 10 February 2023
Genre(s): Alternative Rock
Pierce the Veil's The Jaws of Life arrives 7 years after their last release, 2016's Misadventures. I have never personally been fond of the group to a strong extent, but I cannot deny the charm of select older, nostalgic tracks such as the dynamic Kellin Quinn collaboration King for a Day, or my personal favourite Bulls in the Bronx, a song utilizing the spirit of melodious post-hardcore along with flamenco guitar work. While such music is certainly nowhere near my main preference, I've never particularly loathed PTV; they always seemed far more enjoyable than some of their counterparts of the faux-emo era, such as the whiny Sleeping With Sirens, or the mind-numbingly ludicrous Falling in Reverse, just to name a few. When compared, PTV have retained some creative idiosyncrasy throughout their prior endeavours. However, such congratulation will not be voiced for the following new record.
Although he seems to only be credited for a single track, I would not be surprised if Paul Meany of Mutemath fame was the covert producer behind the album's entirety. Despite an undeniable talent, Meany has been the culprit of many recent musical travesties such as Twenty One Pilots' Scaled and Icy and the nauseating self-titled Yungblud album. His own band is where Meany truly establishes himself, yet it appears that his work with external artists results in the brazen "generification" of said music. Such a result is ostensibly present here, whether that blood actually resides on Meany's hands or Pierce the Veil themselves.
Aside from a mere triad of songs, the record encapsulates virtually the same exact resonance all throughout, so much so that a few tracks are indistinguishable from one another. The greatest moments on the album are unsurprisingly the outliers, even though they have their own flaws. As lightly as I may say, my favourite song here is So Far So Fake. I'm fond of the line "I'm cauterizing the veins you lacerate", and the swift staccato percussion clashes wonderfully with the satisfactory guitars and tone altogether. Although I'm impartial to the vocals' production, this is the best song on the entire record. There is additionally the Meany-produced Pass The Nirvana, perhaps the only song to truly stray from the core timbre of The Jaws of Life. The chorus sounds like a blend of Ohms and ATF era Deftones, various 'Chinoisms' littered throughout its duration including the riffage and the lyrical delivery (and the 'woo!'). The verses themselves have nothing in common with the aforementioned group, but those sections are also the weakest. The error with Pass The Nirvana as a lead single is that it establishes a certain atmosphere, alluding to far harsher tracks later on, but alas this is the only variation of such a musical semblance. The following drone-y Even When I'm Not With You, boredom-ridden Emergency Contact, and somewhat trap-infused Flawless Execution may as well all be conjoined into a singularity as they seem relatively identical to me.
The absence of grit firmly upholds the record's missteps. From the very first taste of the album, Death of an Executioner attempts to create a build-up of sorts, yet the chorus rips away any potential. What ends up developing instead is a bad Muse tribute. Resilience – which PTV described as being akin to "that classic scene in the movies when the hand pops out of the dirt after they’ve been buried alive" – lacks the density and strain of such a concept; the instrumentals present are very 'coming-of-age' and the production/instrumentation is far too tame and polished. Damn the Man, Save the Empire, a track with quite a juvenile ambiance, eventually grows to be exasperating which is only fed further by the overload of repetition in the chorus. The final result is a song that feels far too long despite only being a little short of 4 minutes. Shared Trauma is another rarity, straying from the general sound, harbouring somewhat of a trip-hop production and atmospheric mixings. Although I do enjoy the harmony – and the incorporation of rain – the lyrics are again a complete miss. A similar deed occurs on the conclusive 12 Fractures; the Chloe Moriondo feature is bizarre and she provides even more generic writing to the mix.
Perhaps I am overly harsh in my judgment as the honest case would be that Pierce the Veil are still far superior writers than many of their crowd's cohorts. Nonetheless, I struggled to get through this entire record because the truest error of them all was the boredom that is exhibited here. The Jaws of Life is not at all horrific, but it is not great either. It is simply a record that exists in the year 2023 and is utterly forgettable, and that is sincerely the worst crime to commit within musicianship.
Royal & the Serpent - If I Died Would Anyone Care
Released: 28 January 2022
Genre(s): Pop Punk, Alt-Pop
The answer to that inquiry is no.
After somehow sitting through this entire thing (against my will at that), hoping it would somehow become redeemable at any point, I almost feel sorry for always bitching about the state of “pop punk”. It is my least favorite genre – at least the newest wave of it – yet it is constantly on my mind for an unknown reason. Those at the forefront of the current debauchery such as lab-created children from the Clock App and Machine Cuck Kelly are astoundingly more tolerable than whatever this is. The blonde heroin addict may be abysmal but at least he doesn’t sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks being skinned alive. Ironically enough, Royal has a similar appearance. Maybe it runs in the family...
This EP has some of the worst production I’ve ever heard. Genuinely. The song "Fuckboi Rejects" is one of the most insufferable singles of 2022. The lyrics are garbage and the guitar sounds like it is being played by someone with cigarettes for fingers. The lyrics on this album in general are so migraine-inducing that it makes me want to pull all my hair out. "Just some alt bitch who’s always empty / I don’t know how it got this way / I’m just a poser / Getting hotter and older." Good lord, who approved this? Additionally, they completely throw away the concept of “show and don’t tell” that we all learn in our grade 5 writing classes. Instead of complex or interesting ways of conveying depression or feelings of alienation, it just sounds like you’re listening to a one-sided conversation from the perspective of a vegetable (I think it is time to pull the plug on that life support). The voice is fucking annoying too and when paired with the rest of the terrible attributes found here, it becomes a pool of filth that can never be fixed. This woman needs to be banned from music.
Royal & the Serpent - Happiness Is an Inside Job
Released: 28 October 2022
Genre(s): Power Pop, Pop Rock
How I despise this artist... I know it is rather foolish to go into a record – or EP in this case – with an already established mindset, but I refuse to take the blame because holy shit.
I'm not going to go into detail about my gripes with this woman, so just scroll down to the other review I did of her other EP if you want that sort of thing. This body of work opens up with I'm Fine, a track so juvenile with a message that has been overdone to hell. The production here, just like on the rest of the songs, is abysmal to put it lightly. There are elements of hyperpop within the chorus, where the singer screams but instead of utilizing the screaming to add intensity or emotion to the music at hand, it just comes off as cringeworthy and trying way too hard to appear in a way that says 'hey! Look at me! I'm psychotic and different ooooo I'm so unique!' No, Ryan, you are almost 30 years old. Please stop (I used Youtube to listen to this and was unfortunately subjagated to the visuals of every song here, which furthers my thoughts on the madness. Go see for yourself if you want).
This could apply to the entirety of Happiness Is an Inside Job, a project so diluted with atmospheres of unoriginality and faux-depression that I cannot possibly take it seriously. The only true redemption – and I am saying this with almost no weight to it – is Death of Me, but only when it comes to the instrumental. It reminds me of something like 2009 Owlcity with a bit more guitar work and somewhat of an 'edge' to it if you will. Apart from that, I despise the lyrics and the delivery of the singer. Think Riptide covers perhaps, that terribly forced 'indie' pronounciation of words is very prominent here. Love Abuser and Happinness 4 Dummies are fairly similar and very forgettable at that. Very MGK. The last song No Regrets is quite a laugh because you should positively have many regrets after releasing this EP. It's a very generic song, with 'na na na' varations here and there as well as your average lyrics about needing to improve because you continue to be a lousy drunk (or whatever she meant).
On top of being hideous, all 5 tracks are a terrible bore. Why I continue to tune into Royal & The Serpent is unknown to me. Maybe I just enjoy torturing myself with such garbage...
Scanner - Hypertrace
Released: April 1988
Genre(s): Power Metal, Speed Metal
Now here is a record that deserves much more recognition and praise.
I knew I was going to love this album from the very first track I heard (Killing Fields). There are heavy sciene fiction themes present, and also a song called Wizard Force - how can I not enjoy it? Hypertrace is chock full of beautiful guitar riffs that paint a very epic soundscape, quite evident on songs like the aforementioned "Killing Fields" as well as the anthemic "Locked Out" and "Across the Universe", both of which have choir-like moments too. The vocals here, courtesy of Michael Knoblich, are stunning and really fuel the creation of the overall atmosphere on this record. It truly does feel like you're either in space or on a battlefield where two great wizards are duelling amongst themselves. The actual topic matter has to do with World War II, mutant soldiers and aliens which I say we need way more of from a musical standpoint, at least in modern metal.
I find myself constantly coming back to this record. Every part of it is super memorable and plays out in the same way a film would. I'm not even too big on Power Metal, but this is a classic for sure.
Sorry... - Innocence.Love.Sadness
Released: 17 December 2022
Genre(s): Post-Punk, Depressive Suicidal Black Metal
For my first album review of 2023, I shall bestow upon you a record I'd been meaning to hear off of Bandcamp. Innocence.Love.Sadness was quite alluring to me for a multitude of reasons – the first being that I enjoy Depressive Suicidal Black Metal, and the second is my adoration for a few unrelated songs within Sorry...'s discography. The album art is also quite intriguing. This record is not at all terrible but it lacks a few certain elements that, if possessed, would otherwise make it genuinely fantastic.
Lyrically, Innocence.Love.Sadness is as DSBM as it can possibly get, but instrumentally, I would associate it most closely as post-punk with heavy DSBM attributes. The very first introductory track is where this is exemplified and it is also the best song on the record. Innocence deals with topic matters of losing... well, what is stated so clearly in the title; relishing in what used to be and the light found within the times before it was lost. There are beautiful, melodious guitars that retain heaviness and that caramellike depressive atmosphere while still managing to feel somewhat youthful and almost bittersweet. A very clear cut fusion of post-punk and DSBM, the track contains spoken words along with screaming vocals that truly pull the entire aura together. Distress and Sadness emit a similar tone to a lower extent, the latter of which ventures the most into metal yet also has a pleasant keyboard moment. Such a musical experience is quite plentiful when listening to Lifelover, for instance, one of my favorite bands of this variety. The reason I mention them is because a comparison can be made with numerous stages of this record, as they sound like the aforementioned band's 2006 release Pulver, especially in terms of percussion. This machine esque style is most vividly demonstrated within the songs Love and Broken. If you are also a fan of Lifelover, perhaps this album would be of at least some enjoyment to you.
The downsides of this record are highlighted during numerous spoken word sections, the writing and the production. For the most part, the opting of speaking rather than any other vocal style is done well, usually fueling the emotions that the band wishes to portray on the various songs. Due to the crisp nature of the words though, you cannot help but pay attention to the lyricism. A lot of it here is reminiscent of mid-2000s whiny, 'emo' journaling if you understand what I mean. On some tracks, the heaviness of the instrumentals saves the inevitable but on others, Love for example, there is nothing layered over the words. This can be intertwined with my minor yet evident distaste of the production. With a record of this manner, you can never go wrong with insane amounts of distortion and more grit, and such would also create a far more twisted, truthfully DSBM sort of feel. Something else about the production is that it tends to tone down the volume of the music itself, emphasizing the vocals and creating a bizarre sound that seems a little "unfinished".
Innocence.Love.Sadness begins with a gorgeous introduction which is sadly never replicated anywhere else on the record. Decent music is certainly not absent here, but neither are mistakes.
Sunrise Patriot Motion - Black Fellflower Stream
Released: 10 June 2022
Genre(s): Gothic Rock, Black Metal
Sunrise Patriot Motion is a band I had not been aware of until recently. The album cover of Black Fellflower Stream is what initially caught my eye and spurred me to hear the actual record itself. I was additionally enticed by the apparent genre, which is a blend of Gothic Rock and Black Metal - two genres I heavily enjoy. Now that I've listened to the entire album, I have to say that the beautiful atmosphere captured in the album art is certainly transmitted through the music at hand. This being stated, I'm saddened to say I did not enjoy this as much as I thought I would.
What we have here is an atmospheric record with a blend of gritty Post-Punk guitar work and melancholy, banshee-esque vocals in the manner of many DSBM acts (such as Lifelover or Psychonaut 4, for instance). All of this, in theory, seems like something I'd normally adore, but my problem with this particular work is the unfortunate fact that the majority of the tracks are way too similar.
The album starts out fairly strong with the opener Sunrise Labyrinthian, a very pretty song that sets up the general sonic atmosphere of what you'll hear later on. I absolutely love the instrumental work on this track, very eerie, reminiscent of a dark alley way in Transylvania, perhaps one that is frequented by Dracula or something of the sort. More positive moments are during Drippings of God and My Father's Christian Humidor. The first contains very intriguing production where there is much more prominence and focus onto the vocals, which are abrasive and once again lean towards that DSBM type of sound. The second has an almost 1980's aura to it when it comes to the synths involved, and I once again am in love with the instruments here. The instrumentation really is the standout part of the entire body of work.
For the negative side, while the aforementioned tracks are very gorgeous, the remainder of the record simply sounds like regurgitated versions of one out of three of those songs. Aside from the solely instrumental tracks, the album feels very same-y throughout. I believe this is due to the vocal style. It is not bad at all, but due to the overabundance of focus on the Post-punk side of things – and not enough on the Black Metal elements – the record starts to feel like one long song after a while instead of numerous different songs.
I wish I could say I enjoy Black Fellflower Stream in full, because it really is a beautiful album, but I just wish there was more variation. Within speed, within vocals, literally anything. Although that's the case, I have to say I'm very intrigued by this band and what they will release next. I will definitely be tuning into that. The talent and uniqueness is certainly there.
Torture Tomb - Killing to See How It Feels (EP)
Released: 6 June 2020
Genre(s): Death Metal
I was recommended this by someone who is a fan of Bodybox (as am I). I can certainly see why he took a liking to it, although I am not in total agreement with his love for the soundscape. Texas metal band Torture Tomb's general sense is quite similar to Bodybox, as are the album art styles between this EP and the other's Through the Bongfire. I know it lacks fairness but I just can't help and compare these two releases to one another.
Through the Bongfire is a not-too-serious, entertaining and chaotic listen while Killing to See How It Feels is a decently short lo-fi demo that doesn't exude the same energy as Bodybox's release whatsoever. Every song here is fairly alright but not to the extent where I see myself coming back to it frequently. This is one of those works that I feel would be conveyed far better in a live setting, otherwise it is just you average 'stompy' Death Metal EP. The first titular track contains a pretty solid introduction; an eerie combination of sludgy guitars, flowing into slower vocals and drums of the same speed. The song picks up near the middle with a rhythm that was too obviously created to be a soundtrack for a circle pit. This is followed by a slight sharp "upbeat" section with some catchy riffs that I think are neat. This song is probably my favourite one off of the EP if I absolutely had to choose. The next two tracks are both slightly faster musically, but in my opinion they blend into eachother a bit. The second track also has a harmony of sorts in the lyrics, which I don't really mind but I just find it to sound out of place on a release of this nature. I think where this 3-song project really falls flat for me is the speed and intensity – it ain't fast or explosive enough. I guess that's my Thrash-loving brain speaking... Overall though, I don't hate it. I just find it much more lackluster than the material from other bands in this sort of sphere, say the aforementioned Bodybox (see here) or Sanguisugabogg (and here) for comparison.
Turnstile - Glow On
Released: 27 August 2021
Genre(s): Post-Hardcore, Alternative Rock
I have heard nothing but positive remarks about Turnstile's Glow On, even believing it to be a 2022 release with how much rave I've witnessed about it this year in particular. Alas, it was released in 2021 and even so, I believe I have failed to see the hype. I am unaware - is it truly overhyped to a certain sense or is it just not aligning with my musical taste?
My experience with this post-hardcore record is not utterly negative, although the negatives are quite close to outweighing the positives. I am, for instance, fond of many riffs and chord progressions here, as well as the general instrumentals; the tracks Wild Wrld, Holiday and Blackout are all enjoyable due to these very factors. The first of this triad has some intriguing clicky instrumentals involved, which are paired with an array of upbeat riffs and drums that almost sound like a bass guitar in some peculiar way (yeah, I don't know). The latter are drenched in so much hype and catchiness. Something about Holiday specifically reminds me of skate punk from the early 2000s, which isn't a bad thing at all. I'm also keen on the fairly pretty, almost western sounding beginning of Underwater Boi, and the beautiful arrangements of New Heart Design which is my favourite song off of the album. Beachy guitars flowing into a slightly distorted, 1990s esque slew of verses make for a fantastic moment. Most tracks on the album contain either satisfactory compositions or smaller sections of music that make the song much more enjoyable when looking at the larger pictures, and at the attributes that then bring forth the downfall.
The lyrics are part of what prevent me from entirely enjoying Glow On. There are a multitude of not only generic but corny word choices scattered amongst the music. The opener, Mystery, sees the band brandishing very basic rhymes as is then also heard on Fly Again and T.L.C.. Another element that is ever so present here is lack of true harshness. Although I do enjoy many of the instrumentals featured on the album, the vast majority of what is heard here is not at all hard-hitting, nor are the vocals which is surprising because, in theory, they should be quite harsh. In my perspective, there is no kick to the throat on any of these tracks, which is what I always seek within heavier genres of music. Blackout and Don't Play for example – although they have their upsides – encompass certain vocal moments that remind me of Yungblud and even Imagine Dragons type stylings, which I would not deem as positive in any matter (such a comparison is rather horrid actually but nothing on this album is as bad as either of those two). The pairing of the vocals with the rest of the instrumentals and production also offers no abrasion, proving to be a bizarre clash of elements. I would also say that a couple tracks here pertain to twin formulas, sounding almost identical to one another.
I feel as if this would fare better with me if there was more heaviness and perhaps a different selection of production, specifically when it comes to the pairing of it with the vocal style. Perhaps I could even look past the lyrics if the sound was of that nature. Shame, I wanted to like this record. I really did. I can certainly see why others do love it though, but I won't be returning.
Yungblud - Yungblud
Released: 2 September 2022
Genre(s): Alternative Rock, New Wave
I do not like Yungblud. I hate his wannabe ‘punk’ image and the abysmal nature of both his appearance and personality. In my eyes, he attempts to be somewhat of a cross between a Sex Pistol and Robert Smith but for a brainless sort of individuals who believe that their parents asking them to do the dishes is considered a form of trauma. I was going to write this record off as garbage from the moment it came out, but I opted for giving it a chance because I’ve nothing better to do.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard an album that was so derivative of other, far better musicians. Everyone has inspirations and bands they look up to when creating music, but fucking hell, this is worse than what Greta Van Fleet did with Zeppelin. The track Tissues samples Close to Me by The Cure which is alright, but then it directly rips the vocal and instrumentation style of Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon (of all people). Memories sounds like Yungblud wanted to be Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, taking a large chunk of production elements from their most recent work. On Funeral, the victim is now Billy Idol and the 1981 classic Dancing With Myself, and on Don’t Go, it seems that the Brit has almost inadvertently created another version of Mean by Taylor Swift (again, OF ALL PEOPLE). This may have as well been an accident or unintentional but it did not go unnoticed by me. You cannot escape my wrath, Dominic.
Perhaps, it is not a downright abhorrent piece of music. There are moments like Die for a Night, a song so short that you almost miss it. It is a rather slow and downturned track where the focus is on Yungblud’s vocals and there's a nice little addition of rainfall near the end. The lyrics may be lacking in vitality, but it is certainly not annoying to listen to like the majority of this self-titled album. In the same vein of things is Sweet Heroine. This song is quite slow and melodic, once again containing painstakingly average words, but the melody is honestly somewhat pretty so I did not wish to end my life upon hearing it. Finally, the opener and aforementioned Funeral. Although it has been done before – and in much better ways at that – the track is probably one of Yungblud’s finest as the music itself is pleasant. The video also has Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne running him over with a car so that’s probably the best part of it all.
Regardless of the highs, the lows outnumber any good quality by lightyears.
As you may have gathered from many of the above statements, the lyrics on this album range from terribly mediocre to painfully cringe. Going back to Tissues, for instance – it has your average, run-of-the-mill situation of someone leaving a relationship and the other individual becoming melancholy, but then Yungblud sings “I’m in love again and tomorrow I’ll be sad”. Well boo-fucking-hoo, this is just so damn plain. Sure, the rest of the lyrics aren’t a masterpiece by any means, but they are not uncreative to this sort of extent. Sex Not Violence is just horrendous because I do not want the mental image of Yungblud having sex. The record itself has such a large problem with atrocious writing, also being heard on the aforementioned Sweet Heroine and Mad. Mad is a song about going insane, yet it lacks any force or emotion, both within the lyrics and the delivery of them. The melody here also feels like a Machine Gun Kelly song which is the worst musical crime anyone could ever commit.
Speaking of Mad, this leads me into the next problem I have with the album: the genericness of the music itself. This record is heavily influenced by 1980s new wave/post-punk and the likes of Billy Idol, The Cure, etc., but it manages to tarnish this genre by beating it into the ground. Every song essentially has the same drum style and eighties melody if (you don’t count the softer ones and the random track where he "samples" the snares off of fucking Kid A... Literally what the hell). The reason why I mentioned Mad is because this type of production is very evident here, but it doesn’t go with the theme of the song at all. The topic of insanity and feeling like you’re going mad is simply diminished and feels insincere from Yungblud’s perspective due to the upbeat, clean instrumentation and vocals. The track I Cry 2 sounds very melodically similar to the aforementioned, so you may as well group the two together. The overall aura also reminds me of One Direction for some reason.
I despise the fact that I had to listen to these songs more than once in order to properly form a review. The thing is, this is not even remotely horrific compared to other works of Yungblud’s. He just can’t write good lyrics even if his life depended on it. Anything he tries to make meaningful just ends up sounding like an edgy middle school kid wrote it. The new wave element on the record would actually be kind of nice if he did something with it besides just ripping off every 80s artist ever.
Zheani - I Hate People on the Internet (EP)
Released: 23 March 2022
Genre(s): Trap Metal, Experimental Hip Hop, Industrial Hip Hop
This was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, as I loved each of the singles that dropped beforehand and the full project certainly did not disappoint. Zheani skillfully conveys many concepts within the realms of hatred, anger and the process of becoming manic. The majority of this EP is so incredibly energetic, almost rough, and really makes its way into your head with the topic matter. The instrumentals are of the same capacity. On the track Fuck The Hollywood Cult, which is my most favourite, the sharp drums partner very well with the angry words of Zheani and her vocals have an interesting distorted sound to them, which only fuels the greatness of this particular track. A lot of other songs here also have this type of production and it works extremely well. I liked a handful of Zheani's previous music although I never really came back to it after the initial release, but this EP is where I think she was really able to pinpoint a unique sound for herself.